There Was a Water Main Break in California. And Another One. And Another One…

By Jennifer Snyder
Nov 06 2014 |
Nearly 150 Los Angeles Firefighters were required to handle a large water main break on Sunset Boulevard that flooded portions of the UCLA campus on July 29. | LAFD Photo by Jaime Moore

History keeps repeating itself in the Golden State.

UPDATE: Just a minutes after we published this blog on Thursday afternoon, the Los Angeles Times reported that more than 40 percent of L.A.'s water pipes received a grade of C or lower during a recent assessment. There have been more than 5,200 pipe leaks in the city since 2010, and officials are "most concerned about 400 miles of pipes" that pose the greatest risk of breaking and causing major property damage.

SECOND UPDATE: Another day, another break. Several more water mains have burst since we originally posted this blog. We'll keep adding to this list as they happen, so check back regularly.

Some of the busiest areas of Southern California have been impacted by major water main breaks in recent months, causing major traffic snarls and disrupting communities. Millions of gallons of water — if not more — has been wasted at a time when California is in a severe drought.

There are 1 million feet of pipes in Los Angeles County that are beyond 100 years old, according to, which is the age that most experts recommend replacing them. The city is on track to replace its pipes once every 300 years — clearly not fast enough.

To help highlight the severity of the problem, we put together this list of just a handful of the major water main breaks in California from just the past several months.

June 17: A Sinking Feeling

When a water main burst underneath a parking lot in Burbank, it caused a sinkhole to form that was at least a foot deep and four cars wide.

July 29: 20 million gallons lost near UCLA

UCLA’s famed Pauley Pavillion and nearby Sunset Boulevard were flooded when a water main burst. At least four motorists had to be rescued, and more than 900 cars parked in nearby garages suffered water damage from the flood.

July 31: Water Main Break: The Sequel

Crews were still cleaning up the damage from the UCLA water main break when a pipe burst in L.A.’s Eagle Rock neighborhood.

Sept. 2: Water in the Valley

The city of Van Nuys dealt with street closures and 40 customers lost water after a 6-inch pipe burst. Service wasn’t restored until 10 p.m.

Sept. 3: Soaked in San Diego

L.A.’s southern neighbor dealt with a major break of its own when corrosion caused an 18-inch pipe to crack and spill 1.6 million gallons into the streets. Homes and businesses in the area were left without running water for the night while crews repaired the pipe.

Sept. 26: Soaked on Sunset

A 36-inch pipe installed nearly 100 years ago burst on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. Roughly 9,600 gallons of water flooded the street every minute, and the area remained closed for days.

Oct. 23: School Faces a Flood

About 24 homes had their water shut off when a pipe ruptured near an elementary school; thankfully, the students had all been sent home for the day. Crews who responded were actually worried about turning the water off to repair the pipe, as the break happened near a pressure regulating station.

Oct. 27: A Busy Break

One of the busiest intersections in L.A. shut down after a water main burst at 4:15 p.m. — the height of the city’s famed rush hour traffic. Santa Monica Boulevard and Highland Avenue remained closed until the next morning. One resident told the local NBC affiliate a pipe burst in the intersection just a few months prior, adding: “They need to start fixing the problem before it happens.

Oct. 31: Double Trouble on Halloween

Two major water main bursts struck Southern California after a busted 20-inch pipe flooded in the Wilmington neighborhood of Los Angeles and another rupture in the City of Commerce caused 70,000 gallons of water to spill onto the city’s streets.

Nov. 6: Huntington Harbour Shut Down

A sewage spill closed Huntington Harbour to swimmers and divers. About 1,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into a storm drain system that feeds into the popular harbour.

Nov. 9: Nightmare in Napa

Roughly 200 people were left without water after a 36-inch pipe burst in Napa. Tens of thousands of gallons were lost. Down in Southern California, dozens of Woodland Hills residents also were left without water after a main burst in a residential neighborhood.

We note that this list is highly unscientific — we just did a simple Google search to see what made headlines. Replacing water pipelines in Los Angeles alone admittedly is a daunting task — it could take a decade and cost up to $4 billion.

But it’s simply a necessary one; the cost of NOT doing anything is also significant. And here’s the great news: California would gain nearly 130,000 new jobs by investing in its infrastructure.

Simply put, it is time to #InvestinUS. You can help by telling your Member of Congress to invest in our infrastructure and rebuild America.